FERMOR, Richard (1480/84-1551), of Isham and Easton Neston, Northants. and London.
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Family and Education
b. 1480/84, yr. s. of Thomas Fermor alias Ricards of Witney, Oxon. by 2nd w. Emmote, da. and h. of Simkin Hervey of Herefs.; bro. of William. m. by 1515, Anne, da. of William Browne of London, 5s.inc. Jerome†, Sir John and Thomas 5da.2
Warden, Grocers’ Co. 1520-3.3
Richard Fermor’s father, a wool merchant who had made two prosperous marriages, died in 1485 leaving 200 marks and property in Oxfordshire to each of his three younger sons. Sixteen years later, under the will of his mother, Fermor received £100 and more property in Oxfordshire. He followed his father and grandfather into the wool trade and by 1505 had become a merchant of the staple. In 1518 he was admitted to the Inner Temple, being pardoned all vacations and offices.4
Fermor shared the contract for victualling the King’s army during the Tournai campaign of 1513 and he also profited from the sale of large quantities of armour and munitions. His service was rewarded by frequent licences to export wool direct to Italy and while he was at Florence in 1524 he gave financial assistance to Wolsey’s agents in Rome: at his fall in 1529 the cardinal owed Fermor £125. On two occasions when Fermor was threatened with trading losses, in 1515 because of piracy and in 1538 through imperial obstruction, the King ordered his ambassadors to solicit compensation.5
By 1509, when he was named one of the jurors for the trial of Sir Richard Empson, Fermor was living at Isham. The reason for his settlement in Northamptonshire has not been discovered, but while also acquiring property elsewhere he had by 1530 purchased from Empson’s descendants a substantial part of their estate in Northamptonshire, including Easton Neston. A dispute over these lands was settled in Fermor’s favour by Cromwell and Chancellor Audley. A measure of his wealth is his assessment for the subsidy of 1536 on £1,000.6
In July 1532 Fermor stood surety for a loan made to Sir Edward Seymour by the King and in the autumn of that and the following year he was nominated but not pricked sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire—he had acquired several properties in Bedfordshire—and in 1534 for Northamptonshire. At about the same time he was also the 3rd Earl of Derby’s chief steward in Northamptonshire. In 1537 he was appointed a juror for the trials of those involved in the northern rebellion during which he had again helped in victualling the royal forces.7
Three years later Fermor was himself attainted in the King’s bench for breaches of the Act extinguishing the authority of the bishop of Rome (28 Hen. VIII, c.10). His offence had been to shield his Catholic chaplain, whom he visited in prison after the priest had been condemned under praemunire, but the French ambassador Marillac reported that he was a marked man for having spoken too boldly against the King’s rights and prerogatives in the Commons; two other Members, Marillac added, had acted more wisely in leaving the country after settling their affairs. In his brief allusion to the case the chronicler Edward Hall, who himself sat in this Parliament, makes no mention of Fermor’s Membership, and since there is no other evidence of it his return for London is a matter of inference. By the Subsidy Act (32 Hen. VIII, c.50) of its second session the appointment of the collectors of fifteenths and tenths was vested in the Members, but the letter of 4 Aug. 1540 asking for nominations was sent to only three of the four London Members; two of these, Sir Richard Gresham and Sir Roger Cholmley, had been chosen by the court of aldermen and the third, Paul Withypoll, by the court of common council, as the missing Member must also have been. Fermor, a liveryman and leading merchant, but not an alderman, would have been a likely choice and his sentence a ready explanation of his omission from the procedure; he had himself recently been a subsidy collector in the wards of Farringdon Within and Queenhithe. His prosecution was to be followed by an attack on his son-in-law, the London alderman Robert Wilford (an elder brother of Nicholas Wilford), who in January 1542 was accused before his fellow-aldermen of being a ‘maintainer’ of the pope.8
Sentenced on 9 May 1540 to life imprisonment and forfeiture, Fermor was first committed to the Marshalsea of the King’s bench but in August 1540 he was released on bail, his brother William Fermor, who had sat with him in the Commons as one of the knights for Oxfordshire, acting as a surety, and he retired to the Northamptonshire rectory of Wappenham. He had been specifically excluded from the general pardon (32 Hen. VIII, c.49) enacted while he was in prison, but in June 1541 he received a pardon and in 1542 his poverty was relieved by grants of the manors of Marston Butlers and Pebworth, Warwickshire, and of other property in Essex and Somerset. Further rehabilitation had to await the death of Henry VIII: in July 1547 some of Fermor’s goods were restored to him and in March 1550 he regained lands to the yearly value of £386, a dramatic move which placed him among the dozen or so men who benefited most from the redistribution of crown lands during the reign. The story that the King’s jester Will Somers won a pardon from Edward VI for his former master Fermor may— if there is any truth in it at all— refer to these grants.9
Fermor was thus a wealthy man again when he died at Easton Neston on 17 Nov. 1551 and he had been able to make proper provision for his wife and family in his will of the previous 1 July. He had also made good marriages for his children, one of his sons-in-law being Sir John Mordaunt. He was buried in the church at Easton Neston where the inscription on his tomb wrongly records the date of his death as 17 Nov. 1552.10
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; PRO Transcripts from Paris. Baschet 1540 (Marillac to Montmorency), ptd LP Hen. VIII, xv. 697.
- 2. Under age when his mother made her will but of age by 1505. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 19; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 169, 170; Baker, Northants. ii. 142-3.
- 3. Wardens of the Grocer’s Co. ed. Grantham, 16.
- 4. PCC 19 Logge, 22 Moone ptd Oxon. Rec. Soc. xxxix. 70-71; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 449; Cal. I. T. Recs. i. 43.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, ii, iv, xiii.
- 6. Ibid. i, vi, vii; Baker, ii. 141-2.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, v-viii, xii; VCH Beds. ii. 329, 355, 357, 359; Baker, i. 593.
- 8. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xv; Wriothesley’s Chron. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 119; Hall, Chron. 838; Stow, Annales, 580; Northants. Past and Present, v. 87-88; Elton, Policy and Police, 238; C60/352, mm. 17-18; E371/309, r. 56 (i, ii); City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10, f. 236v.
- 9. LP Hen. VIII, xv-xviii; CPR, 1547-8, p. 183; 1550-3, pp. 22-23; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 115-16.
- 10. C142/94/30; PCC 3 Powell; Pevsner, Northants. 193; Bridges, Northants. i. 292.